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Thread: Scale length and fingerboard radius

  1. #1
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    Default Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Hello again, another few newbie questions.

    Concerning scale length, it appears most mandolins measure in at either 13 29/32" or 13 3/4". There is only slightly over 0.15" difference between the two, not much. Does this slight length difference make any tonal, volume or playability difference in mandolins? For example, with guitars, the scale lengths are usually between 24 3/4" (Gibson length) and 25.5 (Fender length), and that 3/4" difference has huge effects on volume and tone.

    Is fingerboard radius on mandolins important, and in what way? Also how common is a radiused fingerboard, and is a radius usually on the golden age vintage stuff like Gibsons?

    Any comments or suggestions are welcome. Thanks again for all your help!

  2. #2
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by MKB View Post
    Hello again, another few newbie questions.

    Concerning scale length, it appears most mandolins measure in at either 13 29/32" or 13 3/4". There is only slightly over 0.15" difference between the two, not much. Does this slight length difference make any tonal, volume or playability difference in mandolins? For example, with guitars, the scale lengths are usually between 24 3/4" (Gibson length) and 25.5 (Fender length), and that 3/4" difference has huge effects on volume and tone.

    Is fingerboard radius on mandolins important, and in what way? Also how common is a radiused fingerboard, and is a radius usually on the golden age vintage stuff like Gibsons?

    Any comments or suggestions are welcome. Thanks again for all your help!
    Radii are one of those new-fangled notion on mandolins! I don't think that they are very important at all, they may make it easier for old or smaller hands to fret more easily. I have both flat and radiused boards and have no problems switching back and forth.
    Mike
    Edmonton, Ab.
    Canada.

  3. #3
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Standard mandolin scale length (since the early years of the Gibson corporation) is 13 7/8". There is another "standard" (shorter, more like violin scale length) for mandolins used for classical music that I won't post for fear of getting it wrong. Only slight variations of those and outliers will be found otherwise. Is there a difference in sound? Good question. With the standards being so ubiquitous, there are few examples from which to judge any difference in sound.
    Scale length has nothing to do with fingerboard radius. The "golden age vintage stuff like Gibsons" had flat 'boards. As Mike said, putting radiused fingerboards on mandolins is a "new-fangled notion". How important is it? Depends on who you ask. Some people hate 'em and love their flat 'boards, others hate flat 'boards and insist on a radius, others are like Mike above and can easily go back and forth between the two.

  4. #4
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    We sure are giving you some definitive answers! (Probably cause there ain't any.)
    Mike
    Edmonton, Ab.
    Canada.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    All mandolin should have flat boards, teenie-tiny frets, and super high action...
    Now get off of my lawn!
    "What a long, strange trip it's been..." - Robert Hunter
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
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  7. #6
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    All mandolin should have flat boards, teenie-tiny frets, and super high action...
    Now get off of my lawn!
    Where did that come from?
    Mike
    Edmonton, Ab.
    Canada.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    All mandolins should have an extreme radius on the board, enormous frets, and action like a gnat's eyelash...
    Now get off my lawn!

    Just a joke, aimed at the "my way or the highway" faction on all sides.
    Obviously these things are just a matter of preference, though it is a good question as to whether or not any of these playability factors (and scale length) affect tone. I actually think instruments with higher action sound better, but are just too hard to play (for me).
    Also, in my quest for the right scale on a tenor guitar I found that chords (especially 2 note power chords) sound much better on a longer scale (and even slight changes can make a difference).
    Interesting thread. I hope I haven't de-railed it.
    Back to observing...
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  9. #8
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    All mandolins should have an extreme radius on the board, enormous frets, and action like a gnat's eyelash...
    Now get off my lawn!

    Just a joke, Don't give up your day job

    aimed at the "my way or the highway" faction on all sides. No one from that faction had made a comment


    Obviously these things are just a matter of preference, That's what was said.


    Back to observing...
    Mike
    Edmonton, Ab.
    Canada.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Bunting View Post
    Don't give up your day job
    Arguably the best advice I've ever gotten on the Cafe, as anyone who has heard my playing will attest.
    "What a long, strange trip it's been..." - Robert Hunter
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
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    Carpe Mandolinium
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Instruments of newer design are moving toward a 14-inch standard scale length (e.g. Weber, Lafferty).

    The difference between a 13.5-inch and a 14-inch scale creates an inconsequential difference in fret spacing (a difference of 1/36 of an inch spacing between the nut and the crown of first fret; and obviously even less of a difference as you progress up the scale).

    The longer scale does, however, slightly increase string tension, affecting--a tiny bit--timbre, projection, and volume.
    == JOHN ==



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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    What is a 2 note power chord on a tenor guitar?

  14. #12
    ArtDecoMandos Marty Jacobson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    It's a fifth, right?
    martinjacobson.com - Dedicated to producing affordable instruments with great tone & playability

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Ludewig View Post
    What is a 2 note power chord on a tenor guitar?
    Root + Fifth, as in:
    G-D-A-E
    0-0-X-X = G
    2-2-X-X = A
    4-2-X-X = E
    5-3-X-X = F
    X-0-0-X = D
    X-2-2-X = E
    ...etc. (all movable)
    "What a long, strange trip it's been..." - Robert Hunter
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Bunting View Post
    Radii are one of those new-fangled notion on mandolins!
    Just a bit of historical correction here from a bowlhead: Embergher mandolins had radiused fretboards way back around the turn of the last century. Not so new-fangled...
    Jim

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  17. #15
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Just a bit of historical correction here from a bowlhead: Embergher mandolins had radiused fretboards way back around the turn of the last century. Not so new-fangled...
    New fangled in bluegrass, maybe? I was mostly just being facetious, though.
    Mike
    Edmonton, Ab.
    Canada.

  18. #16
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Just a bit of historical correction here from a bowlhead: Embergher mandolins had radiused fretboards way back around the turn of the last century. Not so new-fangled...
    I knew of old bowl backs with arched 'boards (and tiny little narrow necks!), but I didn't think to categorize them with "golden age vintage stuff like Gibsons".

  19. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    We bowlheads have our own golden age.
    Jim

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  20. #18
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    I think the classical mandolins are set at 13-in scale, which is more akin to the violin. I think if you add up all the widths of the frets it'll be about the 3/4 inch that led to the longer scale (and the obvious increased string tension is better for playing like Monroe).

    Not that I'm an expert. . .

    f-d
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Radius fingerboards are Violin envy, because they have a Lot.
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    I feel safe saying that the quality of the build, and the materials used, will affect the sound of the mandolin more than the small differences in scale length.

    OTOH, I have a mandolin with a scale of about 14.6" and I think the additional length has given the instrument a bit more energy overall--it is pretty loud. The primary reason I did it, however, was for better playability up the neck. That small amount of additional fret-to-fret space made a difference for me. I use med light strings and there is no problem with the additional tension.

    [QUOTE=MKB;110385
    Concerning scale length, it appears most mandolins measure in at either 13 29/32" or 13 3/4". There is only slightly over 0.15" difference between the two, not much. Does this slight length difference make any tonal, volume or playability difference in mandolins?
    [/QUOTE]

  23. #21
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    All mandolin should have flat boards, teenie-tiny frets, and super high action...
    Now get off of my lawn!
    This touch a nerve? Relax! Probably a reference to Bill Monroe: Loar F5 with flat board, thin wire frets and very high "manly" action)
    Jammin' in South Austin with:
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  24. #22
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by John McCoy View Post
    .....The difference between a 13.5-inch and a 14-inch scale creates an inconsequential difference in fret spacing.......
    Maybee its time to turn off your computer and actually play the mandolin for a while; I can tell the difference!

    j.
    www.condino.com

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  26. #23
    Carpe Mandolinium
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    Default Re: Scale length and fingerboard radius

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    Maybee its time to turn off your computer and actually play the mandolin for a while; I can tell the difference!

    j.
    www.condino.com
    Funny you should mention that. I can too, but I've wondered if it's just my imagination.
    == JOHN ==



    Music washes away from the soul the dust of every day life.

    --Berthold Auerbach



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